Outbreak of Syphilis in Oklahoma

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It’s no secret that syphilis is making a comeback in America. We’ve written about it before when an outbreak occurred in Texas. Now, health officials in Oklahoma are warning of a similar outbreak of the infection through the state. This has prompted an increased need for testing among sexually active residents.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health had actually warned of a syphilis outbreak in March of this year. In 2016, there were a total of 284 cases of syphilis throughout the state. In July, the department had already reported 215 cases in 2017. This alarming rate set Oklahoma on course to pass the previous total by year’s end. A dramatic trend in Oklahoma shows that syphilis cases have more than doubled since 2011. Other STDs, such as chlamydia and  gonorrhea, are also on the rise.

Director of HIV and STDs at the state Health Department, Jan Fox,  has cited people exchanging sex for drugs, or engaging in risky sexual behaviors with partners who also use drugs as a key factor in the outbreak. The local health department is urging all people who participate in riskier sexual activity to get tested.

Syphilis is a curable infection. It is usually treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, if the infection is not detected early enough, it can slip into the later stages of infection and cause more severe health problems or even death.

The biggest challenge facing health officials in Oklahoma is the limited funding and resources they have been given. A small number of staff and locations means that the outbreak can quickly grow beyond the abilities of the health department. Oklahoma uses a partner testing and tracking system that attempts to contact a patient’s previous sexual partners in an effort to get them to test as well. They also offer free STD testing to pregnant women.

In many instances, no obvious signs or symptoms will be present. Having syphilis testing performed can be the best way to learn the current status of your sexual health. There are many options for testing beyond the health department that offer quick, affordable and confidential testing for you and your partner.

Article by Robert Francis Curtis

Robert studied at Columbia College Chicago. He has worked as a Care Adviser here at Analyte Health for a while and looks forward to spreading more information about sexual health.

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